02/20/2013 4:02PM

Maryland Racing Commission votes to endorse uniform medication rules


The Maryland Racing Commission on Tuesday voted to endorse a proposed set of medication rules that are being pushed by a handful of national and regional racing organizations seeking to align the rulebooks in all 38 U.S. racing jurisdictions.

The vote is the second in the last three weeks by a racing state to endorse the rules, which would put in place new restrictions on the use of several popular drugs and ban the administration of all but 24 medications. Massachusetts endorsed the rules in late January, and similar efforts are expected to be launched in racing states in the Mid-Atlantic in the next several months.

Alan Foreman, chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said Wednesday that officials representing regulators, horsemen, and tracks in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Illinois have given a deadline of March 1 to pledge to work toward the implementation of the rules.

“I am relatively confident everyone will commit,” Foreman said.

Following the endorsement, the Maryland Racing Commission is expected to spend the next year modifying its existing rules to conform to the proposed regulations. Other states will have to go through the same process before the rules can go into effect, sometimes by addressing the rules piecemeal.

“Every state is going to have its own issues,” Foreman said.

For example, in West Virginia, rules have to be changed by statute, whereas many other states can modify rules at the commission level.
While racing organizations have been working for several years to put in place uniform rules, the effort has picked up steam in the past year as more organizations began contributing to the drive.

New York has already passed many of the rules endorsed by the organizations, following the release last fall of a report analyzing a spate of racing deaths at Aqueduct racetrack in Queens from late 2011 to 2012. Foreman was on the task force that prepared the report.

The proposed rules would ban all raceday medications but the anti-bleeding drug furosemide, which is legal to administer on raceday in every U.S. racing jurisdiction. However, three other states – Maryland, Louisiana, and Virginia – allow for the raceday administration of so-called “adjunct bleeder medications.” Under the new rules, those states would have to pass rules banning the adjuncts.

The rules provide for the legal administration of 24 drugs commonly used for therapeutic purposes or to treat injuries, including phenylbutazone, a painkiller, and corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatories used to treat soreness in joints. The rules include withdrawal times to guide horsemen on when the drugs can be administered in order to avoid a positive on race day.